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Category: management

There are 11 posts published under management.

10 Ways Digital Currency Could Survive and Succeed

With all the recent news around Bitcoin and Mt. Gox, what do you think the future really holds for digital currency and why?

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.


1. Bitcoin Will Continue the Cycle

You’re going to see a pattern in any new technology. Invention, early adoption, media misinformation, speculation, bubble, deflation, then traction. Bitcoin is like the Internet in the mid-’90s: misunderstood by most. Heavy speculation of the Internet resulted in the dot-com bust, and it wasn’t until after the bust that it became what it is today. Bitcoin is going through the same cycle.


2. Setbacks Won’t Last

As is true at the front end of every technological curve, there are significant segments of the community that foretell doom for the new technology. Whether it’s because naysayers do not see the big picture or because they’re financially tied to the existing system, time, and technology are not on their side. The current safety setbacks are just that — setbacks. They won’t last.
Brennan White Watchtower


3. People Should Let It Run Its Course

Right now, Bitcoin is in a sensationalist phase. People are either hyping it up or hoping it will fail. People should let it run its course. The media has influenced its adoption by mainstream companies and countries. Now there are conventional investors and large corporations behind Bitcoin, so it’s doubtful it will be made illegal. Exchangers will probably face forced regulation compliance.
Gideon KimbrellInList Inc


4. Bitcoin May Fade Entirely

Unless security features can be greatly improved and the suspension of transactions can be ceased, you may eventually see virtual currencies fade entirely.
Andrew SchrageMoney Crashers Personal Finance




5. There Will Be More Trial and Error

With Bitcoin heists reaching into the hundreds of millions, it’s going to take continuous evolution for this type of currency to gain true stability.
Sam SaxtonSalter Spiral Stair and Mylen Stairs




6. Digital Currency Will Move Global Commerce Forward

Every time I hear about Bitcoin’s troubles, I’m tempted to point back to the first experiments with paper currency hundreds of years ago in China. They went horribly; it took several tries to create a paper currency people could actually use. Digital currencies will require the same trial and error to become established, but they are a necessary technology for moving global commerce forward.
Thursday Bram Hyper Modern Consulting


7. Bitcoin Will Allow Mobile Payments

We have a lot to figure out before digital currency replaces traditional currency, but it’s definitely inevitable. I think the first things to nail down are mobile payments and security. Progress is already underway, and a full digital currency is what will come from that progress.
Chuck Reynolds Levers


8. Bitcoin Will Pave the Way for Cryptocurrencies

The issues with Mt. Gox are only a bump in the road for Bitcoin. The future might be rocky, but I feel that it will keep growing rapidly and pave the way for other cryptocurrencies. While they may not prove to be the absolute future of currency in the world, I do believe that within a lifetime, we’ll see it become widely used and a staple in conversations about finance and economy.
Daniel Wesley,


9. Digital Payments Will Continue to Grow

Digital payments have been around for the past decade. Companies, such as PayPal and Square, make it easy to incorporate a digital payment solution into your business, but these services come with transaction processing fees. In contrast, there is no business or central authority that controls Bitcoin. There are no fees for large transactions or negligible fees for small transactions.
Björn Stansvik MentorMate


10. Bitcoin Is Experiencing Growing Pains

Things like this tend to happen in the early days of technology, as people are just starting to understand how to manage it effectively. Didn’t you feel any sort of growing pains when you started your first company before eventually taking off? Most likely you did, and that’s the exact same thing going on with Bitcoin.
Andy KaruzaBrandbuddee


9 Ways Open Source Will Affect Tech This Year

What is one way you think open source will affect the tech industry in 2014?

The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

1. Huge Increases

As 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the Internet, we can see the huge rise in open-source initiatives. There are numerous events hosted worldwide — including Wikimania in the U.K. I would keep an eye on the launch of World Code Day. International nongovernmental organizations are promoting open data for governments, and open source is being implemented in education, health care, environment, and many more areas.
Christopher Pruijsen,

2. DIY Connected Devices

In 2014 we’ll see a huge surge in the proliferation of open source, home automation, and connected devices, which will allow enthusiasts to access data feeds and APIs to further maximize the utility of those devices. Integration will also see a huge increase as people focus on integrating separate devices onto shared platforms and mobile apps.
Andrew Thomas, SkyBell Technologies, Inc.

3. More Competition

The cost of starting up a website or tech project is so much less than it used to be. This will bring the opportunity within reach for many more people, effectively allowing for the creation of even more startups. This increase in competition should lead to better innovation at a faster pace overall.
Andy Karuza, Brandbuddee

4. More SaaS Models

With the ever-increasing adoption of open source, 2014 is poised for an increase in the number of SaaS companies launched. SaaS companies are launching offerings faster then ever, leveraging the confidence and acceptance of the open source community and solving its most difficult problems.
Phil Chen, Givit

5. Faster and Better Solutions

Entrepreneurs are looking for the best solutions possible. They want to move quickly and effectively. When I see a product such as Google Docs growing at a rampant rate while Microsoft is still charging for Office, I see a big opportunity for open-source software and programs.
Luke Skurman,

6. New Pricing

Tech companies will have to rethink their pricing strategies in 2014, especially because there are more open-source resources for cloud computing such as OpenStack and Eucalyptus.
Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

7. Bitcoin

Many FinTech startups operate under the existing closed-source markets and monetary system, which limits their opportunity for innovation. Creating an open-source financial system — as bitcoin has begun to lay the groundwork for — will completely reshape world finance.
Andrew Fayad, eLearning Mind

8. More Originality

Open source will force more originality in the approach and content of the tech industry. With everyone on the same open platforms and softwares, only the most valuable content will rise to the top. It’s becoming the standard for the everything.
Kevin McGann, GraduationSource

9. Rise in CMS

Open-source content management system programs, including WordPress, have been around for a while. With recent releases, these CMS programs are almost limitless. The free price tag and easy customizations make them the solution of choice for a majority of website owners. The use of these programs will soar even higher in 2014.
Michael Quinn, Yellow Bridge Interactive


How the Cloud is Changing Vehicle Management

Cloud technology is currently revolutionizing how a number of industries operate. The freedom and interconnectivity of these products is driving change in businesses of every size.


By nature, vehicle management lends itself well to cloud-based systems. Since a fleet is constantly in motion, the various tasks, employees and records incorporated can become complicated or fragmented for any size business. But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s take a look at how new online solutions are changing vehicle management.


In breaking down the basic responsibilities of vehicle ownership, it is easy to see how things can get complicated in a hurry. If your car doesn’t tell you to take it in for service, when should you put it on the schedule? Where do you store maintenance history? What about tracking fuel expenses? Finally, how do you make sure your tag, insurance and payments are all taken care of in a timely fashion?


Suddenly, the glovebox seems wholly inadequate. Sure, you might be able to get by waiting until the check engine light comes on, responding to your mail in a timely fashion and ignoring fuel or service receipts. But a little effort can save you money, as well as provide a little peace of mind. After all, who wants to be unexpectedly out a few thousand dollars and broken down on the side of the road?


When a business depends on a stable of vehicles and equipment to get the job done, the challenges compound quickly. Take the headaches associated with having one car and now multiply that by tens, hundreds or even thousands. And unless you are personally operating all of these assets, then employees need to be licensed (possibly DOT compliant) and involved in the process.


Traditionally, companies have approached fleet management tasks in a variety of ways. Some invest in an enterprise software system and pay a hefty amount for a custom solution. Training, installation, and regular maintenance would be required. Otherwise, those looking to proactively manage their fleet (many do nothing), rely on a scattered array of spreadsheets, file folders and shared calendars.


In the last few years, however, companies adopting products like Xero, Google Apps, Salesforce and other cloud-based software are seeing benefits that can also be applied to fleet management. A number of online solutions for fleet management have gained traction and are gaining momentum. With online storage, easy access, unlimited users and more, it is becoming increasingly easier to not only stay on top of vehicle-related responsibilities, but to also make informed decisions that can help a company’s bottom line.


A number of features and integration options are very much adding to the appeal of upgrading to fleet software. Email notifications bring maintenance reminders to the inbox of whoever should know. These can be set to deliver when activities are due soon, due and overdue. Essentially, once preventative services and their intervals are established for each vehicle, a comprehensive system allows you to take a set it and forget it approach. It will do the work for you.


The ability to store vehicle information, purchase documents, receipts, images and more online is a huge win for fleet management. DOT compliance is also made much easier when a driver can pull up service history, important documents or photos from anywhere or any internet-connected device. With nothing to download or “seats” to purchase, a few products also allow you to add as many users as you want at no additional charge. All totalled, this allows for fleet operations to be a much more collaborative activity.


For most companies, the best way to manage fuel purchases is through a fleet-specific credit card. These fuel card products have customizable settings to only be usable at the pump, service station or convenience store. Fuel cards have been around for a while, but when integrated with online software, records can be sent directly from the pump to the cloud. Fuel economy is calculated for each fill up and the ever-important cost per mile metric (also accounting for service costs) is updated accordingly. This actionable data can help a company quickly see which vehicles are operating inefficiently.


In addition to logging information, setting maintenance schedules and automating fuel reporting, the cloud also allows for tracking vehicles from anywhere. Online GPS solutions can show real time information or historical data. Alerts and geofences can also assist in regulating driver behavior. This is a great way to insure that expensive assets are being used appropriately.


Cloud-based software is changing the way individuals and companies manage their vehicles. As already proven for other business functions, online options provide a convenient and practical solution for what was previously a scattered array of tasks. Largely thanks to the cloud, the fleet technology space is projected to grow tremendously over the next decade.


5 Hard Lessons I Learned Early on as an Entrepreneur

I co-founded Scholarix e-Learning Solutions over 3 years ago, and it has undoubtedly been the single most challenging and rewarding experience of my life.


Along my journey I’ve learned dozens, if not hundreds, of real world lessons that no university lecture or business text book would ever dare touch upon at the risk of scaring budding, entrepreneurial hopefuls.


And while everything I’ve learned has had its value and usefulness in certain situations, there are 5 particular lessons that stand out as business lessons to live by regardless of what business or industry one’s in.


Many of these lessons I learned the hard way. Others initially shocked me as they seemed to fly blatantly in the face of conventional business wisdom but surprisingly made perfect sense later on.


Here are the 5 proven lessons I follow that have made me more successful by abiding by them.


1. Ideas don’t make you successful. Execution does.


Ideas don’t matter. Execution does.


Actually, I should clarify by saying ideas don’t matter anywhere scarring as much as execution does. It’s just that’s not as sexy of an opener.


Whether you’re brainstorming your business concept or are already established and working on your next product or service idea, having a brilliant idea on its own won’t make you successful automatically.


In fact, you don’t need brilliant idea in order to be successful at all. What you need is a solid idea but with brilliant execution!


Apple wasn’t the first to do video calling with its iDevices by a long shot. Hell, I remember making video calls with my trusty old computer and webcam on MSN messenger like 15 years ago.


But what Apple did do is make video calling easier and more accessible while promoting and explaining the benefits in a much clearer way - of course I’m talking about Face Time.



The take home point here is to spend 20% of your time coming up with, good but not perfect ideas and to spend the remaining 80% of your time literally obsessing over executing as that will be the thing that makes or breaks you.


2. People like people who create solutions and not excuses.


Sometimes you have to write a check with your mouth your ass can’t cash yet.


In the years that I’ve been running my business, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had my back against the wall and had to scramble to solve a pressing issue or hit a particular deadline.


Many of these challenges were things we didn’t know how to handle or implement at that very given moment. However, on many of these occasions I still promised my clients that we would get it done and we somehow found a way to deliver.  We were confident in our abilities and knew that we could reasonably find the right solutions, even though we didn’t have one at the time.


In truth, some of the things I promised were along the borders or even a bit outside of our comfort zone, but I chose to take them head on as that is what my clients wanted and who was I not to offer solutions that my audience was asking for? If anything, this was the perfect way to decide what direction to take my company in and plan our next micro-pivots.


So if you’re ever faced with a task that you’re unsure about, before making a knee jerk rejection decision out of fear, scour all your resources, and be vigilant in seeking out new delivery avenues as the opportunity in front of you may be a an educated gamble worth taking.


3. Check your ego at the door and focus on the things that you’re good at while getting help for the rest from experts.


We all have talents in some areas and struggle in others. As an entrepreneur, having relevant skills to your industry and business will go a long way in cutting costs and making you successful.


I’ve always been a computer guy growing up. I got my degree in and worked in digital marketing and also worked at an e-Learning firm prior to my entrepreneurial stint. So it wasn’t luck dumb that I had a lot of transferable experiences and skills that I could bring to the table when I started Scholarix.


It also helped that my business partner, Adam, had some similar skills and complimentary experiences that  filled some other essential voids.

Between the two of us, we knew we could execute certain things at a professional level and we played to our advantages.


As an example, and at the risk of sounding cocky, even though we were just starting out, at the time the quality of our website and online marketing was amazing. It portrayed us as a well-established company even though we hadn’t even made our first sale yet.


What’s remarkable is that we did all this and barely spent anything in the process as we already had the skills and resourcefulness necessary to effectively execute these tasks.


So while we were good at these and other business tasks, there were other sets of duties that we would struggle with as we were constantly learning the ropes while doing the work.


Now in the start I could forgive us as we didn’t actually have the resources to dedicate to hiring even contract personnel. But as my business grew and the sales came in, there were many occasions where I chose to do something myself and took the entire day to do it when the smarter (and less egotistical) move would have been to spend a short time hiring someone qualified for the gig and then spending the remainder of the day on the tasks that I knew I was most proficient in.


In short, just do the things you are the best at and delegate or outsource the tasks someone else is better at than you, because that is how you get the best quality execution on every task; and, as I said earlier, execution is everything!


 4. In business, you can only get so far without bringing in the right people and giving them the authority to do what they need to.


When it comes to running a service business, your people literally create the things you “sell.”


Before we jump to any conclusions, the problem here goes beyond just hiring unqualified or unmotivated personnel, as it’s always popular and easy for some management groups to quickly “blame the employee” for everything that goes off the rails.


No, the truth is its equally about the trust and ownership you place in your people as it is getting the right people to begin with.


When it comes to the way we run Scholarix, Adam and I don’t believe in micro-management, limiting authority, or hierarchal decision structures. Rather, we spend the time to find and work with the best and most dedicated talent who are experts in their respective areas. We then give these people the authority to make decisions in their respective field of expertise as who would know better than them for those specific tasks?

Learning to value your people’s input and ideas and recognizing that you can’t do it all on your own is another essential part of the entrepreneurial puzzle. I don’t care how smart, capable, or hardworking you are you’re still only one person and you don’t know everything.


5. People buy you as much as they buy your product or service.


Think of business in terms of people, not contracts and transactions. Simply put, people buy products and services from people not “companies.” I learned early on that a company is just an intangible structure, and it’s people that use what you sell, and people who ultimately make the decision to do business with you.


The harsh reality is that, in today’s market, practically every service or product offered has dozens, if not hundreds or thousands of competing providers and, to the consumer, the perceived differences between these offerings are marginal on average.


So unless your company has some cutting edge competitive advantage or clear differentiating feature, often, the difference between who gets a particular consumer’s business will come down to a personal connection between the customer and you the seller.


In fact, this is how we got our crack at some of our first big contracts. In the start we didn’t have the track record that some of our competitors did, but we worked our hardest to consistently over deliver in every area we could — a tradition we still strive to uphold today.


We treated people like people, got to know them personally, responded when they needed us, and moved heaven and earth to make them happy — and boy did it pay off.


The Most Incredible Addition to Power up Your Inbox: Multi-Account Support

It’s now 8 months since the Mailbird beta launch and, already, thousands of new users join the beta program every week, predominantly coming from the U.S. and Europe, and a few in Asia. And here is one thing that will surely turn those thousands into millions very soon: the newest and long awaited addition to the Mailbird email platform – multi-account support!


Multi-account support is what separates web mail from desktop email clients. This is the number 1 reason people migrate from web mail to native email clients. This is how people gain more control and get a beautiful email experience that is fast and fully integrated with their PC and laptop OS. Finally you can eliminate having to keep annoying multiple tabs open, constantly having to log in and out of different accounts. You can now have a productive work flow while easily managing tons of information that come through your multiple email accounts each day. Starting today, all those online inboxes now have a solid central hub inside Mailbird – the email client that is often, and rightfully, referred to as “probably the best email client for Windows.”


The cool, international email team of Mailbird and many native email client users on Windows know that this is the biggest launch since the Mailbird beta went public. In a billion dollar market for native email clients for Windows, this one hits the nail on the head. Other email products out there today are either too expensive, don’t work properly, don’t support IMAP or have multi-account support. There is an underserved market for really great email clients on the Windows platform.


Current email clients for Windows OS today include Outlook, Thunderbird, Postbox, Inky, Opera Mail, Em Client and more. With pros and cons to all, a lot of these clients take a particular focus on changing the way email looks, reprioritizing how emails are sorted, creating an actionable to do list from the inbox and other features that desktop email users are keen of. It will be interesting to watch where email goes in the future and how these email client companies will compete on improving email for the world.


Additionally, with email as a global product, retargeting the Asian market for the first quarter of 2014 should unveil behavioral interaction differences. When it comes to email, Mailbird among other email clients are ready to stir things up with growing email trends on mobile and web. A prominent market in Asia is Indonesia. With a population of approximately 250 million who are extremely active online, more so than Western markets, there is a large potential for email client game changers that are innovating with today’s online social and productivity culture.  Mobile and web environments for email are the desktop’s sidekicks and only further boost that awesome “in control” feel you only get with a rock solid email client.


With tens of thousands of Mailbird signups since the beta launch, it speaks volumes to the many problems with email today. Some of the typical email problems we hear about today include complaints about how email is sluggish, old technology that hasn’t changed, it is distracting when you are working, it is ugly and the list goes on.


Exploring the Asian market for email is sure to bring many new insights into native email client behavior.


Why All Companies Need to be More Design-Driven

We see companies becoming more dependent on creative thinking and problem solving to survive. The challenge with traditional business structures is that they do not foster the type of creative environment needed to innovate.


Business management is becoming more and more of a design problem, where it is up to the leaders of the organization to start with the desired outcome and manage the business and move towards that vision.


This is a radical transformation, and one that will not happen overnight. But there are key design principles that leaders can adopt to rethink the way they approach day-to-day work at their companies. In short, companies need to become more design-driven if they want to truly be innovative.


Applying the design process to business


The first step of the design process is to identify the problem. How you define the problem directly impacts the solution, so it is important to get this part right. What challenge is your business trying to overcome? More leads? Increased revenue? Conduct qualitative and quantitative research to gain valuable insight to the problem at hand.


Next, define the criteria for success. Before offering any type of solution, know what success looks like for your organization. This is usually some measureable result—increase revenue by x percent, reduce attrition, more trial signups.


Traditionally, businesses would look for the proven method of success and apply it to their model. This is where a design-driven business has the most opportunity to differentiate itself. From a designer’s perspective, there is always room for finding a different, potentially better, solution. How can your solution be different from every other solution out there?


The way to uncover this is through rapid iteration — the repetition of proposing, building, and testing potential solutions to the problem. The key to this process is building and testing ideas quickly so you can determine its validity as a potential solution and try something else. It’s not enough to propose an idea that might work. Build it. Test it. Try again.


The last step of the design process is deciding — or, more appropriately, dismissing. In the iteration phase, you saw many potential solutions, some good, others not. Dismiss the not-so-good ideas and focus on the ones that are most elegant. This process, however, is not so black and white. Often, different solutions solve different parts of the problem and not others. Elegance is achieving as much of the solution criteria in the simplest way.


How companies can be more design-driven


1. Offer flexibility within constraints. Employees need guideposts to operate within around budgets, goals or milestones. This is especially important during the iteration phase. When there are outlined parameters from the beginning, employees will thrive on the increased autonomy.


2. Develop a culture of iteration that permeates throughout all parts of the business. This applies to company policies, benefits, and even management structure. When there is the assumption that things don’t have to stay the same for long, it becomes easier for the company to make needed adjustments


3. Finally, companies need tools that enable leaders and team members to focus on the solution, not the mundane work that gets in the way. This is something I think about every day at 10,000ft — how to enable companies to be better decision-makers. Whether it’s a resource management tool, design software, or an accounting program, tools should support the organization in building an environment that nurtures innovation, rather than constrains the path to it.


How to Choose the Right Cloud Management Solution

The challenge:


A $500 million enterprise in India began adopting cloud a couple of years ago with the typical cloud journey: from virtualizing the hardware using VMware Hypervisors to setting up a private cloud with vCloud Director and, finally, signing up with AWS for a public cloud service. In addition to handling the typical workloads of development, testing, and production, there are software products that need to run on a SaaS model. This means that distribution of these enterprises’ products has to be moved from a dedicated installation process to a fully automated, on-demand creation of customer instances.


The IT managers in this enterprise then found themselves bogged down by the management and control requirements of these two clouds. After all, they had to manage about 500 VMs in their private cloud and little less in their AWS account! They have no means of knowing how many are really being used and effectively. VM sprawl and under-utilization remains the central challenge, but the customer installations of their SaaS enabled products also had to be continuously monitored, metered and billed! Realizing that they needed a management solution for their cloud services, they started evaluating different cloud management solutions. But how does one make the right choice?


The scenario:


The market today is filled with many multi-cloud solutions spanning from a “pure play management layer” to an “end-to-end cloud platform.” Adding to the complexity are solutions among them, offering variants that lean towards IaaS, SaaS or PaaS. Cloud brokerage solutions, and market place offerings do not make the choice any easier. The following infographic depicts the complexity of offerings available:



Every player in the infographic offers the basic tenets of a cloud management solution, like provisioning, self-service, governance, reports and automation, so there is no decision choice that would disqualify any of these players.


The choice:


Not only is it important, it is necessary to understand the strength and the focus of each player in the cloud landscape. For ease, they could be classified as cloud management solutions, end to end solutions and  brokerage solutions. This classification helps ease the choices in answering “Does the enterprise need all those features or only a few?”


  • Mature cloud management solutions like Rightscale, Kaavo & Scalr manage clouds well, but lean towards automation, migration and improving the efficiency & execution of IT development in enterprises.These solutions are application-centric.
  • New entrants in the same space, like Cognizant (Cloud 360) and Infosys (Cloud Hub), take an enterprise’s view into multi cloud management, governance being an important factor here.
  • VMware’s vCloud suite, Citrix cloud portal, Abiquo and vmUnify are typical end-to-end cloud platforms.These have a lot of inbuilt components like orchestrators & hypervisors. However, VMware & Citrix are centered on their own cloud components and vendor-neutral support is limited.
  • Cloud brokerage tools such as Jamcracker & Zimory are more suitable for a service provider with needs like reseller agreements & consolidated billing. These solutions have many “provider” features along with cloud management features which are needed by end-consumers.
  • Marketplaces are full of nothing but “cloud platform as a service,” where ISVs (re)package and price their products. Consumers “meet up” with them at the marketplaces and buy these products. The marketplace provider makes sure that provisioning, billing and availability of these products are satisfactory.
  • Pure play vendor neutral Cloud portals like MyCloudPortal and Enstratius are the ones which focus on enterprises’ need to control, monitor and manage their multiple clouds from a single dashboard. These lightweight portals combine product cataloguing, metering and billing features through which the same portal can be used as a sales portal for SaaS enablement.


Enterprise can customize and enhance the functionality of these pure play portals to include the organizations’ user realm, BPM engines, and communication systems so that the enterprises’ users will have the same governance, management and budget controls for their infrastructure needs regardless of whether or not they are on-premise hardware, private cloud or any public cloud.


This option seems to be even more attractive given the fact that all cloud platforms offer extensive APIs to communicate with them, aiding in rip-and-replace or plug-and-play functionality. Moreover, these portals are vendor neutral, which is an advantage to any enterprise trying to avoid lock-in.


CXOs have to think hard on what kind of self service solution is required for their specific cloud management needs. Here are few pointers for the decision makers:


  • If an enterprise is just beginning with the cloud journey, it is better to go with an end-to-end cloud solution.
  • If it is a big development house keen on developer productivity, a cloud management solution with lot of automation and migration features built-in would be a good choice.
  • Finally, if you know your way around cloud technologies, and need a lot of flexibility in the way you consume cloud services, you are better off sticking to a simple light weight cloud portal solution!

Plans, Planning, and Pivots

According to Dwight D. Eisenhower, “…plans are useless but planning is indispensable”. How can the production of something “useless” be “indispensable?”


The answer can be found on a banner recently immortalized on Bulldozer00’s blog: “React Less…PLAN MORE!” Unpacking this is simple — the essence of planning is to decide on responses to events that have yet to occur without the stress of a time crunch. Gaining time to analyze a response and reducing the emotional aspects should lead to better decisions than ones made on the fly and under pressure. The problem we run into, however, is that reality fails to coincide with our plans for very long.


As Colin Powell observed, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” Detailed, long-term plans can quickly become swamped by complexity as the tree of options branches out. Making assumptions about expected outcomes can prune the number of branches, but each assumption becomes a risk that an unexpected event invalidates the plan. The key is to find a middle ground between operating completely ad hoc on the one hand and having to be Nostradamus on the other.


Planning at the proper scope is one tool to help avoid problems. As noted above, plans with deep detail and long durations are brittle due to complexity and/or the difficulty in making predictions. Like any other view, plans should be more detailed in the foreground and fuzzier in the distance — much more than a general path to your desired destination will likely turn out to be wasted effort. Only planning that promotes success is needed. There’s no magic inherent in planning that justifies a belief in “more equals better.” Fitness for purpose should be the metric rather than pure quantity of detail.


Another benefit to avoiding useless detail is that it makes it easier to abandon a plan when it no longer makes sense. Humans tend to value that which they’ve invested time in. In execution, commitment is a virtue right up until the point it ceases to be. Hanging on to a plan past that point can be expensive. Having the flexibility to pivot to a new plan can make the difference between success and failure.


Follow the Light: 6 Call to Action Design Tips

A marketer’s entire email campaign or product page is centered around the action they want recipients or visitors to take. Calls to action (CTAs) are one of the, if not most, essential components of inbound marketing. They can be anything from a button, text, graphic, or banner that entices a viewer to click on it.


Engagement matters more than the number of email recipients you send to and how many of them open the message. The more people we engage, the more leads we’ll create, and the more deals Sales will close, increasing ROI for everyone.


Follow these six CTA design tips to draw readers into your message and complete the desired action:


1. Use the Jedi Mind Trick: Like a moth to a flame, we want customers to have no choice, but to engage with the CTA. Follow this method of persuasion to draw their eyes to the interactive point with contrasting colors and simple language. Don’t write a CTA that’s too wordy and sounds passive, your language should be targeted and actionable with a high verb count. For example, use phrases like: “Start trial”, “Request demo”, “Like us”, and “Download now”.


2. Try A/B testing: Set up your email campaign as an A/B test (you’ll create one email with two separate bodies and the recipient list will be divided down the middle, half receiving email A and half receiving email B) with the only difference being your CTA.


Create an image as A’s CTA and a banner as B’s or a button for A and text for B. Whichever CTA brings back the highest click through rates can be implemented across the entirety of your next campaign.


3. Create a sense of urgency: OMG. This is incredibly important. Stress timing and upcoming deadlines when prompting your CTA. When readers feel like they’re under a time crunch, they will quickly take action. Urgency doesn’t have to mean customers or leads will miss out on an entire opportunity, but, rather, a special opportunity reserved just for them. For example, emphasize “early bird” event signups or “sneak peeks” to webinars or whitepapers for high value leads.


4. Repeat yourself (repeat yourself): Include multiple CTAs throughout your email. This increases your click-through rates and simplifies reader engagement by preventing unwanted scrolling and searching. Always include one in the top-right corner above the fold, as research suggests this is the first place an email reader notices. Others can be sprinkled throughout the email’s text — maybe even include a postscript at the bottom, linking to your CTA one last time.


5. Follow a clear, simple path: When a customer or lead clicks on a CTA that promises to take them to a recorded webinar, then it better take them straight to that recorded webinar. Don’t route them to your homepage or provide additional offers.


No one has the time or the attention span to go on a content scavenger hunt, and you will find a high abandonment rate in your web tracking software. Also, be sure that this path relates to your overall marketing goal and the lead’s placement in a nurture campaign.


6. Exit through the gift shop: If you want leads to explore other pages on your website, give them the chance after completing a call to action, not before. This doesn’t interrupt your CTA’s path since recipients have read your offer, clicked to engage and completed your desired action. Let’s say a lead clicked to download a webinar, once they’ve completed the action, and maybe even filled out a lead capture form, you can show them related assets or website pages.


Everybody Needs a Little Competitive Intelligence

For many years, competitive intelligence has been used by large organizations capable of paying expensive specialist that would mine various sets of data in order to find that elusive piece of information that would help the Fortune 1000 beat their competitors. What used to be a luxury for the most fortunate companies is now something that is at the reach of any company – even the smallest ones.


There is a proliferation of information out there that is just begging to be mined by any individuals who wants to be better informed. There is no shortage of data you can find on your competitors and even your own business — from news feeds, to freely accessible company databases, web and social media metrics, to SEO and Pay per click (PPC) analytics all the way to publicly available information about employees, job posting, trademarks and patents.


No matter how big your company is, you are constantly required to have a good understanding of the competitive landscape — from direct competitors, to indirect competitors to keeping a close look at potential new entrants in the market. The more you know about your competition, the better you are positioned to identify and define a competitive advantage for your business. Competitive intelligence can be valuable for many roles in your company:


Business Owners


As the CEO, business partner or owner, competitive intelligence is a must if you don’t want anyone else to eat your lunch. We often talk about having a vision of the future, but this is not possible if you cannot foresee what your competitors will do. Competitive intelligence gives business owners a better method to react faster to changing market conditions and prevents you from being caught off guard if one of your investors starts asking hard questions about stuff they learned about your competitors.


Product Managers


We often say that the Product Manager is the CEO of the product. Not only do you need to make sure that your product or service is meeting the customers needs but you also need to know what your competitors are doing – such as what direction they are taking with their own solutions. As your competitors release new products, you need to make sure that your own roadmap takes into consideration any change in user demand that can be caused by actions taken by other companies. You cannot afford not to be the first one who learns about anything changing in your competitive landscape.


Marketing Managers


Your entire sales organization relies on you to deliver the right message to the market and bring enough leads for them to achieve or surpass their sales targets. You need to make sure that your message is superior to that of your competitors’. You always have to be one step ahead of them. Nobody wants to play catch-up or start losing market shares. You also need to provide competitors reports to your sales team and always have a good answer for any competition related questions your customers might have.


Sales & Business Development Managers


There is nothing worse than being in a meeting while unaware of the latest news or changes that have impacted your key customer or partner. One of the biggest challenges in sales or business development is to build trust with your key contacts. Unless you are constantly aware of what’s going on, you are at risk of missing key information that will help you close or secure that important partnership your company needs to get.


Once someone is convinced of the value of continually doing competitive intelligence, the biggest challenge is to find the right content sources and finding the time to do it. In addition, you need to make sure you can do this cost effectively in regards to your company. Luckily, there are many new companies out there that are looking to do just that: to provide an affordable solution that will allow any business professional to capture competitive data and keep it up to date for you – removing a lot of the pain related to doing competitive intelligence.